Few travel industry experts could have predicted this season’s hot vacation spot. It’s not Miami, nor is it anywhere in the nation’s travel-friendly south-western region. The biggest surprise in America’s domestic travel industry was in fact Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, which recorded a record number of domestic and international visitors throughout the month of July.
Park administrators counted over 950,000 visitors last month – a significant increase over the park’s figures from last year. Thanks to a more comfortable daytime temperature and increased wildlife in the park, July remains the most popular month for Americans to visit the nation’s oldest reserve. An estimated total of four million people will visit Yellowstone in 2010, up almost fifteen percent.
The park has been touted as one of America’s best ‘recession-friendly’ destinations, with a small $25 donation all that’s required for entry. Pristinely maintained by the state’s conservation forces and all but completely regulated by anti-hunting groups, the park’s extensive animal population is a major draw for visitors. Bear sightings are common, along with American bison and wild buffalo.
Environmental groups have stressed the importance of travelling responsibly within the park, with efforts to curb tourist litter fairly successful. The park’s status as one of the United States’ premier natural attracts has lead to a greater degree of respect from tourists, who tend to treat its vast areas of untouched land and forest with some caution. Camping and hiking remain popular activities.
However, alongside the park’s educational value and natural beauty is a potential danger for visitors, particularly those unfamiliar with bears and other dangerous wildlife. Five bears have been killed in the park this season, all of which were due to efforts to increase tourist safety. Rangers have ensured that public areas are safe to travel within, although back country could contain dangerous wildlife.